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What's wrong with Los Angeles International Airport?

May 05, 2013|By Hugo Martin
  • The initials greeting arrivals at an entrance to LAX.
The initials greeting arrivals at an entrance to LAX. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

President Obama recently groused that no U.S. airport ranked among the world’s top 25 airports.

If you’re a regular traveler to or from Los Angeles, you may be even more disappointed to learn that Los Angeles International Airport didn’t even make the top 100.

Obama was referring to a ranking released in April — the Skytrax World Airport Awards — that is based on a survey of 12.1 million travelers around the world. Out of 395 airports worldwide, LAX ranked 109th. It came in at 24th among 50 airports in North America.

That ranking echoed the low grades given to LAX in several previous surveys.

What’s wrong with LAX?

Passengers surveyed for Skytrax gave LAX low scores for the long time it takes to get through security and immigration and customs, said Peter Miller, a spokesman for the aviation research group.

The airport’s check-in and screening process, baggage handling, staff communication and terminal cleanliness were cited as lacking last year by Travel & Leisure Magazine, which rated LAX the nation’s second-worst airport.

Seating at the airport is limited, security staff are rude, signage is poor, bathrooms are in poor condition and travel between terminals is difficult and confusing, according to Donna McSherry, who operates The Budget Travelers' Guide to Sleeping in Airports website, which rates LAX among the world’s 10 worst.

LAX, whose terminal complex was originally built in 1961, is at a disadvantage when compared to newer, privately funded airports in Asia and the Middle East, said Cheryl Marcell, a spokeswoman for ACI World, the trade group for the world’s airports.

LAX could climb the ranking, she said, by improving its signage, cleanliness, ambience and connections to mass transit. “International travelers really value having that direct connection with rail or bus service,” Marcell said.

The Los Angeles City Council last week approved $4.76 billion in improvements to LAX passenger facilities and a transportation center, as well as light rail links, new parking areas and a consolidated car rental facility.

But don’t expect to see the work completed any time soon. To allow bigger jets to land at LAX, the project would also move the northernmost runway closer to homes in Westchester and Playa del Rey, and that has neighbors threatening to file a lawsuit to reconsider the plan.

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